Saturday, July 31, 2004

Marriage Gap

This is a re-post (written 3 days ago). Somehow mail-blogging didn't work:

Hal Varian writes about marriage gap in the NYTimes today. (My apologies: I have been blogging through emails; and somehow links don't work -- reason why I don't provide links. But, hey, borrowing from Al Franken: "Let there be Google!". For this Varian's note, however, you can access it easily on his Berkeley website. Otherwise, subscribe to NYT).

As usual, Varian's popular article is not "tasty": you don't get anything until almost at the end of it. So you can skip all the razzle-dazzles in the first 14 paragraphs -- just go to the one started with "Recently two economists...". Got it? Its preceding paragraphs are nothing but: researchers has "agreed" that usually, the wage earned by married men is somewhat higher than those by single men. Many studies have tried to explain the possible causes. Some thinks it has causality; others, mere correlation.

OK now, the economists' research is really interesting. They assumed that -- in Varian's words, "[T]wins have the same genetic endowment and (usually) the same upbringing. Since twins have the same underlying physical and mental capabilities, they should have similar productivity. Even if employers are biased toward certain irrelevant characteristics, monozygotic twins should be affected by such biases equally..." So they go on investigating the wage behavior of identical twins where one is married and the other is not. Conclusion? Yes, marriage does increase your wage!

My take? They still should (seems they did not) control for all fringe benefits provided for married employees: child(ren) benefits, holy-days package for families, maternity fund for the wives, etc. (This may seem strange for some of you; but that's what happens here and other developing countries).

Anyway, if that conclusion were true, why don't you get married multiple times?

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

... and convenience!

Tyler Cowen (MargRev) and Russ Roberts (CafeHayek) are discussing the economics of iPod. Tyler worries that iPod will lose in the near future. Russ thinks iPod will survive due to its beautiful look, spacious storage, battery innovation (soon), etc. I agree with Russ. I would add one -- no, two: convenience and ... logo (don't tell Naomi Klein!)

Monday, July 26, 2004

Salute to Gutawa

When you were kid, you might get exposed to series of music or songs or movies. Of which you still have their memories till now. At least some melodies or tunes or beats stay in your head forever. I recalled some of those memories last night.
I am talking about the ever-talented Erwin Gutawa's new album: "Erwin Gutawa's Salute to Koes Plus Bersaudara". I couldn't help listening. ... And remembering those old days when Om Dahlan my uncle look after me. He's a Koes Plus-maniac, and later, Koes Bersaudara. (Those of you out there, Koes Plus was "Indonesian Beatles" -- well this might hurt their fans, but what I'm saying is nobody could have such tremendous musical impact on youth at that time in Indonesia, beside the Beatles. The band was banned for being "pro-western" or "pro-capitalist" or so it was accused by Soekarno. The members were jailed. But their music lives forever. Also in me the kid. And in me the adult now). Om, wherever you are, I thank you for the caring and friendship!
A word about this album. Great. Gutawa is dead serious: he invites 17 current Indonesian modern artists, 177 supporting musicians, and 7 sound engineers. They also collaborate with Victorian Philharmonic Orchestra from Australia. Of particular interest is Gutawa's creative arrangement: he combined some of Koes' songs into one composition. (Koes Plus' -- and later Koes Bersaudara's -- music is simple, yet melodically strong. Gutawa manages to combine those with very similar melodies). Of this album, I am particularly recommend the nice interpretation of "Kolam Susu" by the superb Indro (Halmahera bassist), "Mari Berjoget" by Dewa Budjana and Kikan Cokelat (never before I like "dangdut" to this level), and many others. But I hate Armand Maulana's take on "Jemu" (I still don't see the point of techno-funk).
Well... so much for music today. I have to give exam to a student.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Spidey 2

Finally I had the chance to see "Spiderman 2". I wasn't dissappointed when I watched the first one -- "Spiderman", so I expected at least the same as that. And Sam Raimi did it very well. This time, the focus is on Peter Parker the human who is in love with MJ but cannot have her, because he is... Spiderman. The antagonist is Dr. Ock -- my favourite Spidey's villain. Looks like this version draws from "The Amazing Spiderman". Sam Raimi adds a lot of healthy jokes: 1) An employer named "Ditkovitch" --surely this is for Steve Ditko, the comic artist, 2) Relativity vs TS Eliot (Dr. Octopus was a physic geek trying to win a heart of Rosa, an English literature major -- as he friendly tells Peter in a dinner), 3) and many others (MJ's play is "The Importance of Being Earnest"!). However, the e-bay joke is a little too farfetched (Peter is sick of being Spidey. He quits. He throws his costume. Some guy picks it up from dumspter. He offers it to Jonah Jameson the Bugle's boss, for money. Jonah, as usual, is difficult, offering so little. That guy says, "I could get more from e-bay").

Other comments: 1). This draws from "The Amazing Spiderman" (I heard that was the chosen running title, before it changed to "Spiderman 2"), but expect some creative upgrading from Sam Raimi! For example, Dr Octopus controls his robotic limbs with a fuse chip on his backbone (in the comic, it's a panel on his chest). Also, he becomes the evil Doc Ock because there is a
miscalculation of incoming energy that happens to destroy the chip on his back (in the comic, it was a simple accident that made the limbs alive and became part of Doc Ock) -- of in both version, the limbs can occupy Doc Ock's mind. 2) Don't expect to see Human Torch here. In the comic we know that it's Torch who inspired Peter not to quit Spidey. In the movie, it's Aunt May's talking about "hero" (she was saved by Spiderman -- the hero he had been hating because "my nephew is so obsessive with him") and Peter's memory of Uncle Ben. I think Sam would have hard time to present Human Torch (in case you don't recall, Torch is the fire guy from the
Fantastic Four).

Other, other commets: 1). The revealance is staggering! I was shocked that Sam Raimi let the unmasking so easy (but realistic). I happened to think, oh maybe he wouldn't do the third sequel -- but then, he implied otherwise, by Harry Osborne got into the late Norman Osborne's secret
Goblin's room. I recall, only once Doc Ock succesfully unmasked Spidey, but even Jonah didn't get that Spidey was Peter ("I sent him to take Doc Ock pictures, not to pretend to be a stupid hero"). Was Stan Lee and Steve Ditko alright with Sam Raimi's version of revealing? I guess -- Lee is the executive producer of this movie! 2). The train scene was too much. Could Sam think of other things for substitute? 3). As one of my friends commented, if all metals got sucked into the energy sun, why didn't Doc Ock's limbs?

Anyway, it is a good movie. The "It's A Wonderful World" innuendo is nice (Parker decides to quit Spidey and he comes back to school: the background song is ... the rain is falling on my head....). It's very human(e), as said by Peter to MJ, his love: "I'm not an empty seat anymore... I'm different... Puch me and I'll bleed..."

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I love this country

There are two things I kept thinking about on my flight home a month ago. Six years should have changed many things. (I am alright with changes -- I like changes). What I was really concerned with were internet connection and traffic jam.
And my concern has just been confirmed (one month of observation should be quite robust, I would argue). The internet connection has not improved. It's pathetically slow. Traffic jam does change -- it's gotten worse!
OK, one more thing: tv programs are all crap. I happened to see this program one day on one of the now-many channels. It was about a supposedly-generous guy giving big amount of money to a poor man. He asked this guy to spend that money (it's 10 million rupiahs) in 30 minutes and thus be given the right to whatever he managed to buy-- if I remember correctly. I don't really care with the theme -- but look at it closely. I have never seen such insensitive, stupid, snobbish, disheartening- show! That poor guy (a "bajaj" driver?) was treated just like an animal. He had to rush here and there trying to spend that money (he couldn't even imagine how big/small it really was, I conveived) in ... half an hour. And people are... laughing, really laughing, on him. He even, in the midst of hurriness and desperation to buy things, collapsed! Some guys tried to "help" him. He woke up after a while... and people... yes, laughing! Clapping hands and cheering him. I felt so terribly sad, especially because he didn't seem that he was being treated so badly. That was barbarian, heartless show. In the end of the show, a guy -- that "supposedly generous"-guy -- came. He wore an outfit as if he was a godly person, with a stupid Lincoln hat and stupid sidebar and stupid shoes and a stupid stick (well something was telling me, it couldn't be possible that that guy was NOT stupid in real life --  otherwise, why was he doing all that?). He came to the poor guy, counting all the stuff that poor guy managed to purchase and gave him the rest of that damn 10 million... People were clapping hands...
Is this society so sick already?

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Again, software piracy

International Herald Tribune reports today that costliest software piracy is in Europe. The report is based on a study by Business Sofware Alliance. The report says, "In Western Europe, 37 percent of software running on PCs, servers and mainframe computers wa illegally copied in 2003... The worldwide loss to software piracy added up to $29 billion for the year...". So, who said it's Indonesia (only)?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Competition, ethics, and efficiency

Another provocative paper by talented Prof. Shleifer. In the recent AEA Papers and Proceedings (May 2004, for online, subscription required), Shleifer asks and answers "Does Competition Destroy Ethical Behavior?". He departs from focusing on efficiency, and instead he talks about ethics.
The cases he choose are interesting: child employment, corruption, excessive executive pay, corporate earnings manipulation, and involvement of universities in commercial activities. His exposition leads to a conclusion that competition can encourage the spread of censured conduct! This sounds negative -- and surprising, given it comes from Shleifer the Beckerian. Yet, Shleifer is Shleifer. He proposes three strategies for curtailing unethical conducts: long-run market pressure, moral suasion, and government regulation. Interesteingly, he asserts, "...These arguments about long-run competition are not compelling...", "... Moral suasion is likely to work better when competition is less keen...", and "... [O]ne should not expect too much from regulation, especially where the state's enforcement powers are limited...".
Shleifer also rhetorizes: "... Globalization and the victory of laizzes-faire economics has made competiotion keener in many countries and markets around the world. Does this imply that unethical conduct is also becoming more pervasive?" Of course, Shleifer the Chicagoan answers: "No", for two reasons: "Competition is the fundamental source of technological progress and wealth...", and "...[A]s societies grow richer their views of what is ethical change as well...". Shleifer concludes: "Competition is likely to propmote ethical behavior in the long run". My take? In the long run we are all dead.

Runoff very likely

As expected, we will have a runoff for the presidential election. But that's not the problem. Megawati is the problem. I smell money politics.